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LaBell Funeral Motor Car Co.
LaBell Funeral Motor Car Co. (aka LaBell Funeral Service Inc.), 1913-1920, Detroit, Michigan; 1916-1918, St. Louis Missouri; Alex LaBell Funeral Home, 1930-1942; Detroit, Michigan.
Associated Builders


LaBell was an obscure early funeral car builder who constructed a handful of funeral cars for his Detroit-based funeral livery service and later operated a successful metro-Detroit funeral home

Alexander (Alex) LaBell jr. was born was born in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan in March of 1870 to Alex and Anna (David) LaBell (both native French Canadians). He also had a sister Cornelia (b.1873) who married John R. Brow in 1890.

LaBell was married on June 1, 1898 to Theresa (Sudzinski) another Michigan native born in November 1875 to Emil and Ida Sudzinski (both her parents were born in German), his occupation engineer. To the blessed union was born a son, Alexander H. LaBell (b.1908) and a daughter Bernice (b. 1911, married E.J. Pauk).

Little information of LaBell's engineering career could be found however he applied for a design patent on a funeral car body on October 17, 1912 for which he received US Patent No. D43,821 on April 8, 1913. The entire text of the patent follows:



"43,821. Specification for Design. Patented Apr. 8,1913.

"Application filed October 17, 1912. Serial No. 726,377. Term of patent 7 years.

"To all whom it may concern:

"Be it known that I, Alex La Bell, a citizen of the United States, residing at Detroit, in the county of Wayne and State of Michigan, have invented a new, original, and ornamental Design for Funeral-Car Bodies, of which the following is a specification, reference being had to the accompanying drawing, forming part thereof.

"The figure is a side elevation of a funeral car showing my new design of a funeral car body.

"I claim — The ornamental design for a funeral car body as shown.


"Witnesses: Virginia C. Spratt, Agnes M. Hipkins."

The 'Weeks Incorporations' column of the August 14, 1913 issue of Motor World announced the organization of the LaBell Funeral Motor Car Company:

"Detroit, Mich.—LaBell Funeral Motor Car Co., under Michigan laws; authorized capital, $25,000. Corporators — Alex LaBell. M.W. Benjamin."

M.W. Benjamin was a Detroit based attorney (Benjamin & Betzoldt, 720 Dime Bank Bldg., Detroit, Mich.) who invested in numerous patents with his law partner, T.C. Betzoldt, who also owned shares in the LaBell company.

The firm's plant was located at 390 Third Avenue, near the intersection of Henry St. The location is well-known today as the athletic fields/stadium of Detroit's Cass Technical High School.

Confirmation of the address appears from two sources, Detroit's Sanford maps dating from that period show a 40-car garage located at 390 Third Ave., and a single photograph, described below, that was offered for sale by 'photoall' in the Old Car Factories thread of the 'At Detroit' blog ( in March of 2006:

"I have a framed photo:

'Labell Funeral Motor Cars, patented April 8, 1913. Owned and operated by Labell Funeral Motor Car Co., office and garage, 390 third Avenue, Detroit, Mich. telephone Grand 3226, Office open Night and Day.

"I am looking for any information on this company. Also I am interested in selling this 12x24 black wood frame, it has some water damage but you can see the 2 funeral coaches open and closed sides."

Information contained on the surviving photograph mentioned above "Office Open Night and Day" indicates to me that the firm's main business was renting and leasing funeral coaches and limousines to the city's undertakers, many of whom couldn't afford to own their own coaches, relying instead on livery services like LaBell.

The August 31, 1916 issue of Iron Age announced the formation of a similarly named firm which may or may not have been related:

"The LaBelle Funeral Car Company, St. Louis, Mo., has been incorporated with a capital stock of $35,000 by Barney L. Schwartz, William Gunther, Albert Blair and others to manufacture motor funeral cars."

State of Missouri records lists the formation of a LaBell Funeral Service Co., at 2150 LaFayette Ave., St. Louis, Missouri as having taken place on April 1, 1918, with B. Roth Lyons as listed contact.

The September 16, 1916 issue of Automobile Topics announced a recapitalization of the Detroit-based LaBell, which was likely related to an expansion of their livery service, as their manufacturing business had likely ceased by that time:

"LaBell Funeral Motor Car Co., Detroit, Mich., increased its capital from $25,000 to $60,000."

An inspector from the State of Michigan's Dept. of Labor first visited the LaBell Funeral Motor Car Co. in 1915. On August 18, 1919 a second visit from the same agency noted it had 8 employees. A third inspection on December 13, 1918 lists the firm as LaBell Funeral Service, Inc., 9 employees on hand.

An Eastside Ford Service (Alex La Bell, L. W. Hamlin) is listed in the 1921 Detroit directory. Hamlin owned property on Detroit's Mack Ave, within a block of 3rd and Henry, so it's possible the pair joined up to work on Ford automobiles.

Information is sparse during the next few decades, however it is known that LaBell's son and namesake Alexander H. LaBell operated the (Alex) LaBell Funeral Home at 1378 E. Grand Blvd. from approximately 1930 into the start of the Second World War. His obituary from the October 4, 1951 Troy (IL) Tribune follows:

"Heart Attack Is Fatal To Alex LaBell Sunday

"Dies At Detroit Hotel After Attending Game

"Word was received here early Sunday morning of the death of Alex Henry LaBell, 42, proprietor of the Blue Haven Restaurant near Troy. Mr. LaBelle died at 1:30 a.m. Sunday in a Detroit, Michigan hotel. He had attended the Michigan-Michigan State football game and had stopped in Detroit to visit relatives Sunday.

"After noticing aches and pains in body he called a room clerk to secure a doctor. Mr. LaBell was dead by the time the doctor arrived. As far as relatives knew, he had been in perfect health throughout his life.

"Mr. LaBell was born and raised in Detroit. Michigan, where he operated the LaBell Funeral Home, until he entered the service. He moved to Troy eight years ago and has managed the Blue Haven Restaurant for the last five years.

"Funeral services will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Lassaline Funeral Home in Detroit. He will be buried in a Detroit Cemetery. He is survived by his wife and a Daughter and Son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. K. J. Pauk, also of Troy and one sister, Bernice Morse of Phoenix."

Coincidentally the Lassaline Funeral Home (560 E. Grand Blvd., Detroit, Mich.) was located just a few blocks down the street from the LaBell Funeral Home (1378 E. Grand Blvd.). Additionally, Jen and Alex LaBell's Blue Haven Restaurant, Rt. 162 & U.S. 40, Troy, Madison County, Illinois was located 15 miles directly east of St. Louis, Missouri, the home of the second LaBell(e) Funeral Car Co.

© 2012 Mark Theobald -







Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark - Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942

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